By Jeremy Balan
With an opportunity to secure second place outright in the West Catholic Athletic League, it was a series of several missed opportunities that the St. Ignatius boy’ soccer team will look back on with some regret after a 0-0 tie against visiting Serra on Wednesday.
St. Ignatius (8-1-2, 4-1-1) sent seven shots on target, but it was the shots that just missed the net that were the Wildcats’ best chances to score, including multiple right on the doorstep of the Serra goal.
Both teams came in tied for second place behind Bellarmine, and should remain there if the Bells beat league-winless Valley Christian on Wednesday.
“We got a point, so I can’t be too upset,” said St. Ignatius coach Sean-Michael Callahan. “There’s no doubt [we left a few goals out there], and there will be a couple of our guys who will be kicking themselves for not capitalizing, but I’d rather be missing those goals now than later on in the season, so hopefully we right that.”
The Wildcats’ attack was steady throughout, controlling possession and dominating offensive chances, but their best chance came in the 25th minute, when senior playmaking midfielder Sean Prior struck a shot from 20 yards out. The ball was deflected by a Serra defender and it appeared to be destined for the top right corner of the net, but Serra junior goalkeeper Shun Okai made a leaping, acrobatic save to keep the game scoreless.
The save was one of seven for Okai.
“The save in the first half was just fantastic,” Serra coach Jeff Panos said. “He’s very agile and he’s in there because the ability he has to get up in the air and we thought him being acrobatic in there would be a plus.”
The Padres (6-4-2, 4-1-1) didn’t have a shot on target, but did have moments where they came up with solid scoring chances.
Their best chance also came in the first half, when a St. Ignatius defender fell in the 17th minute, opening up junior forward Cristobal Peria for a one-on-one opportunity with SI goalkeeper Anthony Clifford. Clifford slid in to cut off the shooter’s angle, and Peria tapped the ball well wide of the net.
Still, Panos was happy to escape with a tie and a very valuable point on the road.
“We’re very pleased with this game, and we almost got a couple goals here,” Panos said. “This was a good point for us. I think they’re the No. 1 team in our league right now. I’m not sure I could have asked for much more from these guys.”
For St. Ignatius, they remain in a solid position to challenge for the league title.
“Our only loss of the year was to Bellarmine and we’re looking forward to avenging that,” Callahan said. “But the league is just good. The top four teams, it’s a challenge any time you step on the field against them.”
The Wildcats continue WCAL play against Valley Christian on the road Saturday and will host Archbishop Mitty on Jan. 19, before hitting the road again to face the first-place Bells on Jan. 21.